Audi CEO Rupert Stadler moved a step closer to the No. 1 job at Europe's biggest carmaker with his appointment Friday as a VW group management board member.
At the same time, a potential rival for the CEO job, Christian Klingler, was promoted to the same board and named VW's global head of sales and marketing.
Another VW appointee, Karl-Thomas Neumann, also is being touted in the German press as a potential leader when Winterkorn, 62, retires in five years.
The backgrounds of the three candidates couldn't be more different: Stadler, 46, is a finance expert; Klingler, 41, made his name running dealers; Neumann, 48, is an electronics specialist.
They do have one thing in common – Piech knows and trusts them.
Before Stadler moved to Audi, he ran Piech's office in Wolfsburg.
Before joining VW last year, Klingler, who like Piech is an Austrian, was a top manager at Europe's biggest dealer group, Porsche Holding, which the Porsche-Piech families own and VW is buying for an estimated 3.5 billion euros.
Former Continental CEO Neumann rejoins VW on December 1 in a high-level role specifically designed to capitalize on his expertise in the electrification of vehicles.
Neumann worked for VW earlier in his career and won praise from the carmaker's then-development chief Winterkorn for fixing VW's electronic glitches.
So who will get the top job? Think about these two things – Piech loves technical experts and electric power is the seen as the future.